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50 Years Later and What It Means

50 Years Later and What It Means

Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these… (Matthew 6:29b)

On Aug 3rd 1914, with the British Empire on the verge of entering War, Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, famously told the House of Commons, “The Lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time”. This was a remarkable statement at an unprecedented time. If lamps were not to be seen again, they must be cherished. In the unrelenting months ahead, lamps needed to be remembered, not merely for what they provided, but for what they would one day mean again.

The year 2016 represents a remarkable milestone for Pineland Baptist Church. 50 years signifies change and continuity, seasons of abundance and periods of drought. Over the course of 50 years people come, families grow and many depart to be with Christ. Rather than convince the reader of how extraordinary this is, which is a matter of fact, I want to do something of even greater worth. Let us ask ourselves, “Why does this matter?” What does it mean for Pineland to have commenced 50 years prior and exist today? What can I, as a member of Pineland, receive from this? My chief task will be to show the reader how God has ordained and preserved Pineland Baptist as a means for his people to experience his Grace. To that task, I now commence.

Moses, in writing the eighth chapter of Deuteronomy, presents the audience of the Pentateuch with some preventative wisdom.  He looks at the history of the Israelites and says to the effect, I know what you are by nature, and because I know this to be true, you must guard yourself in this way, otherwise you will suffer much harm. Now before we can receive the full grasp of Moses’ wisdom, a quick review of the history of Israel is essential to its meaning.

During the lead up to the climax of the Exodus, Moses instructed the people of Israel saying “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place.” (Exodus 13:3) Merely, giving the people of Israel a land of milk and honey was not sufficient. In the infinite wisdom of God, who knows the true nature of man, it would be utter foolishness to lavish such a blessing on such a stiff-necked people.

This is what we learn in the primeval history of Genesis. (1-11) Adam and Eve, due to their pride had plunged humanity into the impossible struggle between Satan and women. (Gen 3:15) I will put Enmity, the LORD says, “between you[Serpent] and the woman” We quickly learn that Cain, a murderer, is not the promised offspring of Gen 3:15 and that the effect of the fall really is devastating. In Gen 6, after man began to multiply on the face of the earth, the LORD reveals that “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5) God proceeded to punish sin, to eradicate it from the earth, with a great flood. The problem was this, Noah, though he was described as a righteous man, (Gen 6:9) was still a man. His righteous character could not disturb the effects of imputed sin.  Through the genealogy in Gen 5, we are forcibly instructed that Noah is a descendant of Adam. That may be obvious, but it is badly needed.  After the waters subdued, the righteous man Noah, we are told, became a “man of soil” and “planted a vineyard”. (Gen 9:20) Here, Noah, again is undeniably linked through a thematic connection, to Adam. It was Adam who had been instructed to “work” and “keep” the garden. (Gen 2:15) And it was Adam who fell by the fruit of the Garden.  Noah, we are told, became drunk by the wine of his garden (Gen 9:21) leading to humiliating sin. Thus, Noah, a righteous man, is just another failed Adam.

Paul Washer, speaking at Redeemer University College, said “Man is Man and that is all” Otherwise, man does not change: He is Man!  This is one of the great doctrines of scripture; man does not and will not change. He is, what he is, just as much as “I am, is I am”.  (Exodus 3:14)

Prior to the famous comments made by the Foreign Secretary, many had determined that the assassination of Franz-Ferdinand was not a threat to European peace. Man is Man! Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the British Admirality, had not been so foolish. He had seen that the naval arms race between his own Empire and the Germans was only the symptom of a greater problem. German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhem II, had already demonstrated to Winston that he did not want peace.  Though this alienated him from the majority of the Ministers in the House, Churchill heralded that war was unavoidable. In April of 1913, Churchill had told the German Ambassador that the only real obstacle to good relations between the two countries was naval superiority. The First Lord of Admiralty, (Churchill) was determined to out produce German shipyards by 60 percent and maintain the world’s most dominant navy. Man is Man and that is all. His nature does not change!

Due to this radical nature of man, the LORD in his wisdom, appointed the feast of the unleavened bread, least man would forget his great acts in the Exodus. Even once the nation of Israel was to reach the promised land, they would need the feast of the unleavened bread, so they may “tell your son on that day, ‘it is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt’” (Exodus 13:9)

Skipping ahead a few chapters, we learn that Jethro, who plays no small part in the narrative of the Pentateuch, after hearing of the Exodus from Moses, says “Blessed be the LORD, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharoah and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians”(Exodus 18:10) Moses understood the importance of remembering that act, and made sure to act in accordance. The relationship between God and his people fundamentally depended on what he did in the Exodus. This was not to be forgotten.

Only one chapter later, at Mount Sinai, in giving a covenant much similar to that of Abraham, the LORD says to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” (Exodus 19:3b-4) Fundamental to every single act of God was the remembrance of his marvelous deliverance. The principles of this deliverance, which I can not cover here, are indicative of the coming king and crucial to what Exodus 19:6 calls a “kingdom of priests”.

After the people of Israel demonstrated that a covenant similar to that of Abraham was insufficient for their disobedience (Exodus 19:13,17) a more demanding covenant, in its laws and stipulations, was required.  As Moses introduced the beginning of these laws he reminded the people of God that “I[The LORD] am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2) The scriptures are being painstakingly clear, yet the people  of God are exceedingly stiff-necked.

Proverbs 29:1, offers some fascinating wisdom, “He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing” This is a great principle of metallurgy known as work hardening. The most cost effective way of strengthening a material is simply by beating the material, introducing dislocations, which ultimately increase the yield strength. Not without its drawbacks, this creates a brittle material, that when stressed beyond its workable limit, fractures instantly.

Again, let us skip to another well-known pillar of the OT narrative. While Moses had been on Mount Sinai with God, the people of Israel, in what cannot be described as a moment of whole truth, told Aaron, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him” (Ex 32:1b) The eyes of the people had drifted from God to man, it was now Moses who brought the people out of Israel. You may think this is silly and irrelevant but it is central to the diagnosis.  God’s people, who interpreted his law so literally, had come to think that abstaining from adultery was obedience to the command “You shall not commit adultery”. You ask yourself, is that not obedience to the command? This idea is mightily rebuked by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount where he says in response to the Pharisees, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mat 5:28) The act of adultery in itself is sinful yes, but behind it are the thoughts of lust, passionate desires, want for satisfaction and fulfillment. When you look at your neighbor, feel these things and are drawn to satisfy yourself in them you do not love your neighbor but only yourself. You are a transgressor of the law before you even act upon any of those desires. You have not loved your neighbor. Galatians 5:14 says this, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself”

A few verses later, after the Golden Calf had been made, the people of Israel become even more explicit saying “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Ex 32.4) You say, Daniel, this is ridiculous, clearly those people have been criminally deluded. I am not so outrageous. Really? Jeremiah 17:9”The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” You see, we are blinded by our sin, to our sin.  An equally outrageous conversation takes place in John 3. Jesus had just revealed to the women at the well that she was not faithful in marriage and currently was in an unbiblical relationship. She responds with, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” (John 4:20) The woman has effectively said, Yes I have been unfaithful, Yes, I have continually lived in Sin, but when I do worship, I worship in the RIGHT place! Her sin has so corrupted her that she cannot see the epic disproportions of her change of topic! It is all semantics. We don’t tithe because we say I have to pay my bills. I have to go to school. Yet we eat out, we buy unnecessary expenses; we have the newest iphones, large phone plans, expensive toys like bikes. We say, I don’t give much, but when I do it is to the right ministry. I wont give to the Church, but I will pay $100 to $300 to go to some conference to learn about theology. I’ll pay money so that I can worship God at a concert but wont give to the church!  Man is Man and that is all!

The LORD says to Moses, “They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your Gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Ex 32:9) This is the last piece of evidence I will offer up, spoken from the LORD himself, directly to Moses.  Man is Sinful, Stubborn and cannot be trusted. I hope I have been successful in making this clear to the reader.

Now we can appropriately turn our eyes to the wisdom Moses offers us in Deuteronomy chapter 8.  Let me remind you of what Moses has come to realize.  He says, I know what you are by nature, and because I know this to be true, you must guard yourself in this way, otherwise you will suffer much harm.  Deuteronomy 8:11-16 says this,

“Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end”

There is no exegesis required here folks.  This is a clear warning to the people; do not forget the works of the LORD. The principles taught in these 6 verses are remarkable. Graciously, God has seen fit to tell us in this chapter, exactly why we are not to forget what he has done.  PRINCIPLE When we forget God and His works, we by nature of who we are, EXALT ourselves. This is very important and written all over this chapter. Verse 17 says, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth’” Do you see it? In the absence of our eyes being set on God, we exalt ourselves. God has made clear his intentions in verse 16. He did what he did, all his acts, to humble the people of God, to do “good” for them in the end.  I know this is the old testament, and much of us know the new testament much better than the old. But this same principle is written all over the pages of the new testament.  Matthew 23:12 says this, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” Luke 14:11 “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” I could go on but the point is clear. By remembering the works of God, we give God the proper glory, which by nature of the works that he does, leads to our humility. And our humility leads to our exaltation, which is for our good.

The point is this: God’s preservation of Pineland Baptist church for 50 years, should, if we are obedient, lead to our humility, which will result in our exultation. This is an act of God’s grace and a tool for our sanctification. Let us recall and remember the way the LORD has worked in Pineland from year 1 to year 17 and all the way up to year 50. If we do this, we can experience the grace of God in our lives in a greater way.

Now, in order to experience the full blessing of God in remembering all that he has done for us, we have to do it in a biblical way. It is not enough to merely dwell on the past, we must remember the past while looking to the future with hope.  This is what it means to believe or to have faith.  Once again, it is my job to show the reader that this is to be found in the scriptures.

I hope the reader has been able to see the value to be had in the Old Testament scriptures.  At this point in the conversation it would be easy to skip to the NT, but I would like to show again how this is true of the Old Testament.

Nearly every point of contention in Israel’s relationship with God has been decided by their faith or lack of it. The LORD says to Moses in Numbers 14:11 “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?”  Here again, we get a glimpse in to the purposes of God. He cites the Israelites lack of faith, despite what he has done in their presence.  The Israelites were to not only look back at what the LORD had done in Egypt, but they were to look forward in faith to the conquest of the promise land. As we already know, this was not the case. In contrast we learn differently from Abraham, we are told in Genesis 15:6 that “He [Abram] believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”  Hebrews, which serves to us as an inspired commentary, tells us that Abraham, “By faith he went to live in the land of promise,…. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:9a-10)

When Moses was given the task of returning to the people of Israel, he was given a sign from the LORD, so that “they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you” (Exodus 4:5) We are told that the Israelites responded well to this act of God. “And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 4:31) The LORD by appearing to the people of Israel was cultivating in them a faith, that would allow the people of Israel to be safeguarded in all that was to take place in the coming journey to the promised land. Why was it that they could trust in God’s promise to indeed bring them to the good land? Because they could look back on what God had done, and look forward in faith. This is clearly the sense the reader gets from Exodus 14:31 “Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses”

Lastly, let us look at Abram’s interaction with Lot as an example of faith looking toward the future in hope. In the narrative of Gen 13, we are told that both Abram and Lot had become rich in livestock, so much so, that they both could not dwell in the land. It was necessary for them to separate.  Abram said to Lot, “If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left” (Gen 13:9b) You see, for Abram, it was entirely immaterial which land he got. He did not need to scout the land, to observe whether he would be more prosperous if he went to the left, or if he went to the right.  Why was this so? It was because he trusted and believed in the promise of God. He knew, that regardless of what happened with his land, God would honor his word. This same thing cannot be said of Lot, where the author of the narration says “Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar” (Gen 13:10) Lot made his decision by sight, and Abram made his by faith.

I would like to point out that looking towards the future with hope is nothing more than a glorious gospel principle. In the last few months, Pastor Wally has done an excellent job teaching us about the transfer of Christ’s righteousness to those who believe in him[That is Christ]. On numerous occasions, Pastor Wally has taken us to the marvelous passage to be found in 2 Corinthians 5. I will not outline what he has done so well, but I would like to connect it to our present discussion. Why is it that we look forward with hope? It is because as Paul puts it in his letter to the Corinthians “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”  (1 Corinthians 15:20) It is a matter of FACT that Christ is RISEN. His death, resurrection, ascension and reign has secured in us the transfer of Christ’s righteousness, to be received by faith! Priase God! Colossians 2 tells us that God , “having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13b-14) We can look forward in hope, that is in faith, because we can first look back and see what God has done.  After all, in Luke 22:19b we are told in regards to communion, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me”

This all to say, as we remember, recall and recount the faithfulness of God over the last 50 years, let us not stay stuck in the past, but let us look forward in eager expectation, that we will not be at all ashamed, but in faith we will receive deliverance! If we do this, there is much blessing to be had, and it is a way to experience the grace of God in our lives.

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